When I was running to be your Director of Elections, I attended a candidate forum organized by a Vietnamese-American civic group. I asked the audience of about 100 people to raise their hands if they knew King County Elections translated voting materials into Vietnamese. To my surprise, only one person raised their hand. I knew then that we needed to work harder for a more inclusive voting process.
The most important part of my job is to remove barriers to voting. I want all of our citizens to make their voices heard. So last year, King County Elections and Seattle Foundation piloted a new program aimed at communities that speak a language other than English. We awarded $224,000 in grants to community-based organizations who provided voting and civic education. Through their outreach activities, the organizations reached 27,000 limited-English-speaking voters across King County.
This year, we expanded the program to include even more communities. The $435,000 Voter Education Fund focuses on the County’s historically underserved communities, such as communities of color, people with disabilities, low-income youth and veterans.
I want to congratulate the 30 organizations receiving funding this year. So many of them already work to reduce inequities in voting, and the Voter Education Fund grants will help optimize their efforts.
I’m excited to see how the organizations plan to support voting in their communities. Beginning next month, we’ll profile a different group every week to learn more about their innovative and exciting projects. Stay tuned!